ST. MARY’S — Down 43-38, shooting badly, and not having possession with a little over a minute left in the game, things were looking bleak for Van Wert Friday night. Then a perfect storm broke for the Cougars. Two steals and two 3-pointers followed, and Van Wert had pulled off a 44-43 win over St. Mary’s. Van Wert is now 4-4 overall and 1-1 in the WBL. The Roughriders are 3-3 and 0-2.

The first Van Wert steal resulted in a nothing-but-net 3-pointer from the right corner by senior Nate Place (assist LeTrey Williams) — 43-41, Riders, at 1:05. The Cougs intercepted the subsequent in-bounds pass, then worked the ball until 11 ticks left when senior Drew Bagley nailed a straightaway three (assist Place) — 44-43, Van Wert. The Riders had a last chance, but a desperation three was wide of the mark, and Van Wert senior Blake Henry snared the rebound to end it.

“I tell the guys all the time to win on the road in our league, I don’t care who it is, it’s a challenge,” said Van Wert coach Mark Bagley. “Tonight was an absolute challenge for us. St. Mary’s did a lot of good things, made us stand around, but somehow, some way, our kids kept on fighting, and we found a way.”

The last-minute triples by Place and Bagley came as a surprise, because the Cougars were suffering through an ice-cold night from the field — 30 percent (16 of 54) overall — including a lot of point-blank misses.

Two Place 3-pointers in the first quarter had Van Wert up 12-7 with 3:22 on the clock. However, Memorial rallied behind junior sharpshooter Max Mielke to take 13-12 lead after one.

The home team held narrow leads in the second quarter until Bagley hit three treys from out front in the last three minutes to give the visitors a 26-20 lead at the break.

The third quarter was all St. Mary’s. The Cougars suffered through a 1-for-12 quarter from the field and turned it over six times. Although the Roughriders won the quarter 13-4, they didn’t lead until junior Carson Fischbach hit from long range at 0:50 — 33-30, St. Mary’s, after three.

“A lot of that (poor shooting) happened because we turned the ball over and let them get in transition, and they scored,” said Coach Bagley. “Then we had a hard time attacking their zone. We got really careless…turnovers, and it snowballed the third quarter. All of sudden we go from up six to down five.”

The fourth quarter was a dandy. Place hit from the right elbow, and Henry scored on a breakaway layup (assist by sophomore Owen Treece) — 34-33, Cougars, at 6:24. The teams then traded the lead on the next five possessions — 39-38, St. Mary’s, at 4:14. While the Cougs were then mis-firing from all over, the Riders cashed in four straight free throws to capture the aforementioned 43-38 lead.

St. Mary’s out-shot Van Wert from the field 40 percent (14 of 35) to 30 percent (16 of 54), but the Cougars had a lot more shots and also had 7 threes (out of 24 tries — 29 percent) to the Riders’ 3 (12 tries — 25 percent). That made up for the Roughriders’ free throw edge — 12 of 16 (75 percent) to 5 of 6 (83 percent). Van Wert won the boards 27-23 and had fewer turnovers, 14-16.

Bagley, Place, and Henry led Van Wert’s scoring with 20, 13, and 7. Mielke and Dunlap had 18 and 13 for St. Mary’s

Van Wert (44)

Owen Treece 2, Nate Place 13, LeTrey Williams 0, Blake Henry 7, Drew Bagley 20, Clayton Profit 0, Tanner Barnhart 0, Lawson Blackmore 2.

St. Mary’s (43)

Braeden Dunlap 13, Max Mielke 18, Jack Cisco 0, Carter Ballweg 1, Ethan Stiger 5, Bryce Hemmelgarn 0, Carson Fischbach 6.

Van Wert 12 14 4 14 - 44

St. Mary’s 13 7 13 10 - 40

3-point shooting: VW 7/24 (Bagley 4, Place 3), SM 3/12 (Mielke 2, Fischbach). Rebounds: VW 27, SM 23. Fouls: VW 11, SM 6. Turnovers: VW 14, SM 16. Jayvee score: VW 52-43.